The steady beeping noise emanating from his weapon gets quicker and louder as he approaches the hidden prey.
It reflects the excitement growing within him as he digs up his game. The anticipation builds as he cleans up the piece he has excavated, revealing, possibly, another trophy for his collection.
This is how Jeremiah Bowes hunts — for treasure.
He uses a metal detector to find and dig up items with varied historical value.
The weapon is a stubby-edged wand-like stick, and his prey is items made of metal.
“I’ve gone hiking, camping and done all that as a kid,” said the Orillia resident. “But treasure hunting is something I’ve always been interested in.”
A couple of years ago, he came across a video depicting a guy finding a gun while metal detecting.
“It caught my attention,” said Bowes. “Watching that video, and going to other videos from that, got me hooked on.”
He fell in love with the pastime.
“It’s an amazing hobby; you wouldn’t believe the history that lies beneath your feet,” said Bowes.
After viewing the video, he bought himself some equipment and set about finding treasures around Orillia.
His first find was a piece of wire and a butter knife. Not exactly treasure, yet Bowes was hooked.
Since then, hunting around Orillia, he has found historical items that he proudly shares on his Facebook page and through his YouTube channel (youtube.com/jthreeb), which is a forum for videos of his hunts.
“I have a Civil War navy uniform button found right here at (Couchiching Beach Park),” said Bowes. “It would be rare to find something like this in Canada because the Civil War happened down in the States.”
Through research, he said, he discovered that way back in the day, a hospital stood on the Couchiching Beach Park grounds.
“During the Civil War, a lot of soldiers were sent up here to recover from the wounds,” said Bowes.
“At some point, one of them may have walked out to the shore and lost a button here,” he added, explaining how a historian has speculated events may have transpired.
Bowes has also discovered a large-sized penny from the year 1893.
“This was found on the property that was once the home site of Orillia’s first mayor,” he said, noting that he is 90% sure of the accuracy of the information he gathers from research and local historians.
Another valuable find was a 1892 Canadian fish-scale nickel, said Bowes, noting it dates from back in the day when nickels were smaller than dimes.
“It was found up on Burnside Line, in a space that used to be Orillia’s first drive-in movie theatre,” he said.
Around the Lions Oval school property, Bowes said, he has found rifle parts, triggers, bullet casings and other military-related metals; the site was once home to an armory.
But these are rare finds, he added with caution.
A signal could be picking up a corroded, broken-down mineral or a lost wedding ring. One of the most common things you find metal detecting is nails and pull tabs, he said.
“In every hunt, there’s more trash than treasure,” said Bowes. “Last year, when I did the beaches, I found a total of 12 syringes, two or three razor blades and more nails than I could shake a stick at. You’d be amazed at what gets left on the beach.”
In the same vein, he said he has helped local schools clean up sand pits in their playgrounds to ensure children are not coming across harmful items.
“I’ve been hired and asked to help out find property spikes,” said Bowes. “And private property owners have asked me to help detect the fire hydrants on their property that get covered by snow. I am also available to help people find items they lose while gardening or doing some yard work.”
But you can’t just go out and start detecting and digging, he said.
“A lot of research goes into picking a site, by using Google maps or going to the library,” said Bowes, describing the work that goes into each hunt. “If it’s a new location, the first thing I do is just stand and look and map the paths people would have walked. They’re the most common sites where people drop items.”
Most importantly, he said, because these sites are private property, you have to be respectful and seek permission.
You also have to be careful not to create danger for others, said Bowes.
“I dig up what I can,” he said. “And if I’m coming back at a later time, I tarp it or tape it off or cover the hole so no one gets hurt.”
Just like any other technology, metal detectors have come a long way, said Bowes.
“There are different settings on the detector depending on the kind of material you want to find and the kind of surface you’re detecting on,” he explained. “They’ve added features to be able to detect trash and to make it water proof.”
The hobby isn’t just about finding treasures, said Bowes.
“It’s relaxing and it’s good exercise, because you have to keep moving,” he said. “If you stop over something, it (metal detector) won’t beep.”
And you can turn it into a family outing, too, said Bowes, noting his family goes out with him to participate in the treasure hunt.
To encourage others who may be interested in taking up the hobby, he said: “Try it. That’s all you can do. There are stores in town where you can get and rent a detector and try it for a day. You’ll know right off the bat if it’s for you or not.”
Bowes also runs the Orillia Metal Detecting Club, which meets occasionally at the Orillia Public Library.
For more information on a club meeting, visit his Facebook page J Three B Digg'n Canada (facebook.com/jthreebdiggincanada/).